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Yoan Lopez had one of the worst major-league debuts ever

It was... impressive.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Yoan Lopez should not even have been in the game yesterday. What should have happened, is Brad Boxberger came into the game with the score 4-3 and got the save. Unfortunately, what actually happened was two singles and a three-run homer. The next batter flew out, and Boxberger was done, with Lopez trotting in from the bullpen to make his major-league debut. Had he been given enough time to warm up adequately? Probably not. Boxberger threw only 12 pitches in total, and there wasn’t anyone apparently warming up in the bullpen after the first two hits. Our future ex-closer threw only one pitch after the home-run, so hard to see how Lopez could have been ready.

Still, the results when Lopez arrived were truly brutal. The first batter faced was Lucas Duda, who took the first pitch Yoan threw in the majors for a ball, and then did this to the second one:

Next up was Ronald Acuña, and Lopez did at least keep him in the park. But it was hardly less hammered: after again falling behind, this is what happened to Lopez’s 2-1 offering:

Finally, Lopez faced Johan Camargo and got ahead of him, with a first pitch strike. It didn’t seem to make any difference, as the next offering also left the park:

And that was the end of Yoan Lopez’s major-league debut, which had turned a crisis into a disaster. Three batters faced. None retired. Three extra-base hits. Two home-runs. Three earned runs allowed. All in the space of a mere eight pitches. It wouldn’t surprise me if, after the game, Lopez ran off to Florida and considered quitting the game. Again... I can only quote Eddie Izzard: “Well done. You must get up very early.” Let’s see where this stands in terms of record-setting major-league debuts.

For the Diamondbacks

Lopez is the fourth Diamondbacks pitcher not to record an out in his major-league debut. Curiously, three of them allowed three runs, all earned, in their appearance. But none of the others allowed even a single home-run, never mind multiple homers. Here are the details of his predecessors.

  • Vincente Padilla, June 29th 1999. 0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO.
    This was spectacular in terms of its nature. Padilla was put in to a save situation, with the D-backs 4-2 up on the Reds in Cincinnati. It didn’t go well. After three hits and a failed fielder’s choice, the scores were tied, and Aaron Boone delivered a walk-off single to tag Padilla with the L in his debut, and an impressive -89.3% of Win Probability.
  • Eric Knott, September 1st 2001. 0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO.
    This was, at least, over quickly. Arizona was 5-2 up over San Diego in the eighth, when Knott entered and threw one pitch. Ryan Klesko singled. Knott exited. So he wasn’t to blame for the subsequent meltdown which saw the Padres score six in the inning, including Knott’s bequeathed runner. Still, better than Knott’s third and final appearance for Arizona, where he allowed eight runs - though impressively, all were unearned!
  • Ryan Cook, August 20th 2011. 0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, BB, 0 SO.
    Cook’s arrival was the result of necessity, as we played extra innings against the Brewers, the day after the bullpen threw six innings. Cook seemed affected by nerves, uncorking a wild pitch and also balking in addition to three hits and a walk. Like Padilla, he got the loss in his debut - the game also sucked as it was the one in which Stephen Drew broke his ankle. But Ryan is still part of the Mariners bullpen, so don’t feel bad for him.

In the majors

Lopez is the third 2018 pitcher whose debut did not involve retiring any batters. Jeremy Bleich took four pitches to put two men on for the A’s against the Giants on July 13, and both scored. Zack Weiss also allowed two home-runs to the four batters he faced on April 12 for the Reds, walking the other two. At four earned runs, it was worse on that scale than Lopez, and Weiss also threw only three strikes in his 15 pitches. Bleich did at least get an out in his other game. Weiss hasn’t appeared since, and was released by Cincinnati on Sep 1... [Seriously, how bad do you have to be to get released by the 2018 Reds?] He and Lopez are the only pitchers since 1969 currently to possess a career ERA of infinity.

Going further back, there’s only one other pitcher in recorded baseball history whose debut resulted in multiple home-runs without recording an out. That was Wilson Alvarez, who started for the Texas Rangers against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 24, 1989. His major-league career started single, two-run homer, solo homer, walk, walk, before he was eventually lifted. But perhaps that example shows there’s still hope for Yoan Lopez. Because following that disastrous outing, Alvarez ended up pitching 14 seasons in the majors, and was an All-Star as a member of the Chicago White Sox, five years later.

What truly sets him apart is the three extra-base hits Lopez allowed. No pitcher has ever done this without retiring a hitter in their debut. That the extra-base hits were two home-runs and a triple is especially remarkable. At eleven, the total bases allowed by Lopez is also an all-time record for any outless first appearance, breaking the previous record of nine, which belonged to Alvarez. Lopez giving up more bases (11) than he threw pitches (8) is the icing on the cake. Whatever may happen going forward, I suspect he has already set records likely to stand for some time.